By Sarah Ward
Already an enormous success on Broadway, in London’s West End and in Melbourne, Tony and Olivier award-winning musical Come From Away is finally bringing its remarkable true tale to Sydney. Based on real post-September 11 events, the acclaimed production will land at the State Theatre for a season of kind-hearted charm, kicking off in August this year.
If you aren’t familiar with the musical’s plot, or the actual events that inspired it, it’s quite the exceptional story. In the week after the September 11 attacks in 2001, 38 planes were unexpectedly ordered to land in the small Canadian town of Gander, in the province of Newfoundland. Part of Operation Yellow Ribbon — which diverted civilian air traffic to Canada en masse following the attacks — the move saw around 7000 air travellers grounded in the tiny spot, almost doubling its population. Usually, the town is home to just under 12,000 residents.
To create Come From Away, writers and composers Irene Sankoff and David Hein spent hundreds of hours interviewing thousands of locals and passengers, using their experiences to drive the narrative — and, in many cases, using their real names in the show as well. The result is a musical not just about people coming from away (the term that Newfoundlanders use to refer to folks not born on the island), but coming together, all at a time when tensions were running high worldwide.
Since being workshopped in 2012, having a run in Ontario in 2013, then officially premiering in San Diego in 2015, Come From Away has become a global smash hit. After opening on Broadway in 2017, it’s still running today. The musical has been wowing crowds in the West End for the past year, too — and, since opening in Melbourne in July 2019, it has become the Comedy Theatre’s most successful musical in the venue’s 91-year history.
Along the way, the show has picked up a Tony Award for best direction of a musical, six other nominations, and four Olivier Awards out of nine nominations.
Check out a clip from the Melbourne production below:
Images: Jeff Busby.